Chad Kroeger wants you to stop playing "Guitar Hero."
On Monday, less than 24 hours before the release of his band's new album, Dark Horse, the Nickelback frontman was sitting inside the Sunset Marquis Hotel in West Hollywood, California, grumbling about what he perceives to be rock and roll's dwindling numbers.
"I feel like there's not enough rock bands out there, especially when we go on the road," said Kroeger, who performs with the Canadian rock outfit on "The Tonight Show With Jay Leno" on Wednesday night. "It's tough to find other bands out there, because either they're making a record, or they just got done touring. So kids: Start rock bands. Set down the 'Guitar Hero,' learn how to play an actual guitar and start a band, because it's hard to find more bands to put a solid rock-and-roll package together, to get out there. It's getting harder and harder, but I think we've done it."
Of course, Kroeger was referring to Nickelback's upcoming tour, which is set to kick off in late February and feature support acts Seether and Saving Abel. Based on the band's previous album sales, it's safe to say that by the time that tour gets under way, Nickelback's new LP will have already gone gold.
But making Dark Horse was no easy task, he said. The record took more than six months to create, from conception to delivery, and Kroeger said he's pretty sure the band accomplished its stated mission of releasing a record that surpasses its previous offering, 2005's All the Right Reasons.
"The bar's been raised — it's pretty high, especially if we are going to be looking back at the last record," he said. "I think our fans were pretty happy with it, and we made a lot of new fans with that one, and we want to keep 'em. Call us greedy, but we want to keep 'em all. We want to keep going back to all those towns and have those people show up and want to sing our songs back at us, twice as loud. That's why we keep doing what we're doing. This is a good gig. It's a lot of fun, and it's every young kid's dream."
Kroeger admitted that some of the album's lyricism relies heavily on innuendo (take the track "Something in Your Mouth," for instance), but the singer's not trying to be controversial or creepy — he's just trying to pull you in.
"I wanted to get into grabbing someone's attention and holding it," he said. "Sometimes, there are a couple of moments within the record where parents might be going, 'What? This has to come out of the minivan.' But I think we're at the point now where we have to grab people's attention. Other than that, on this album, we were just focused on sustaining — to stay where we're at. We just wanted to write and record a bunch of good rock-and-roll songs we'll enjoy touring. We just hope that our friends are going to dig it half as much as we do."
Kroeger said that, while the whole record is something he and the rest of Nickelback are extremely proud of, he does have a few favorites on Dark Horse, including "Something in Your Mouth."
"That was the first song we worked on for the record," he said. "We were in Sweden and went over a bunch of material with our producer, Mutt Lange, and he wanted to get to a rocker. I've got this phrase: 'You look so much cuter with something in your mouth.' He thought that was perfect and was like, 'Let's start with that one right there.' So we just went off and just wrote this silly rock song that's got this great groove to it, and away we went."
"Burn It to the Ground" is a song that the band had to revise three different times, because producer "Joey Moi, who works with us on a lot of stuff, was sitting in the back of the studio, and said, 'I don't know — it doesn't make me want to pump my fist in the air and crack a beer open.' " The band continued to tweak the track until "everybody's head started moving in the same direction, and Joey said, 'Now I want to crack open a beer, now I want to party with my buddies, now I want to crank the song, and now it's doing what I thought the song should do.' "
The song "Gotta Be Somebody" is a tune Kroeger feels everyone will be able to relate to. "It's just one of those universal themes that Nickelback love to gravitate towards and something everyone can identify with," he said. "It hits such a common thread, because I think everybody that's single — or in a relationship and thinking, 'This may not be the one' — says to themselves, 'There's got to be that perfect somebody for me out there,' and that's what the song is about."
Other songs, like album closer "This Afternoon," were inspired by Kroeger's life experiences. "It's a good rock-and-roll version of [Garth Brooks'] 'Friends in Low Places,' " he said. "Anyone who's ever had roommates, or more than a couple, will relate to this song. I used to have four roommates. We all lived in this house. It was a bunch of drunken kids, barely getting by, trying to find money for beer. Food was low on the priority list. So it's a song about trying to get by and having the best times — ever."